The Supremes is a sprawling tale of unforgettable music, cutthroat ambition, and heartbreaking betrayal. Mark Ribowsky explodes Dreamgirl fantasies by taking the reader behind the closed doors of Motown to witness the rise of group leader Diana Ross, the creation of timeless classics like “Where Did Our Love Go?,” and the dramatic power struggles within Detroit's fabled music factory. Drawing on firsthand, intimate recollections from knowledgeable sources such as the Temptations's Otis Williams and other Motown contemporaries—many never before interviewed—The Supremes is “a comprehensive look at the tumultuous relationships within the Supremes as well as among others at the Motown label” (Library Journal).
Biographer of Phil Spector (He's a Rebel), among others, Ribowsky takes a dishy, insider look at Berry Gordy's making of the Supremes, with some nasty swipes at Diana Ross while elevating Flo Ballard as the trio's martyr. In his detailed look at how Berry engineered his Motown empire, thanks to his smart sisters and a lot of luck and fortuitous pairing of talent, Ribowsky nicely intersperses some hindsight reflections by the main players, such as the brothers Brian and Eddie Holland of the legendary songwriting team with Lamont Dozier, with comparative accounts by Mary Wilson, Ross and others in order to sift the truth from the legend. While the author constantly snipes at Ross for her "popping eyes" and naked ambition, it was largely her single-minded drive that garnered attention to the trio's early incarnation as the Primettes, and her high girl-woman singing voice that established the Supremes' distinctive sound. Moreover, Ross's influence on Gordy (and his faith in her future solo stardom) motivated him to keep pushing the group into the limelight, in spite of other girl groups that had a bigger top hit following, such as Martha Reeves and the Vandellas. In this engaging, vivacious account, Ribowsky energetically and thoroughly underscores the Supremes' significance as one of the first crossover successes.
Interesting fun read
Very well written, often unintentionally humorous account of the fabulous and beautiful Supremes and those around them. Much of it devolving from their individual vulnerabilities, the inevitable conflicts and frictions accruing to the diurnal interactions of driven personalities, as well as the manifold stresses associated with achieving and maintaining exceptionally rare heights of sustained national and international acclaim and popularity. The story is intrinsically very interesting and fun with lots of drama and views into their activities, thoughts and interactions but also their obvious inadvertent but important role in advancing the social and cultural acceptance of the undeniable African-American talent among us. Ribowsky has a sophisticated but easy style of writing often using expressive thought-provoking description and short interesting phrasings that give pause as if startling the reader by the occasional sparkling gem.